Why Did Providence Turn Down Plowing Help From Johnston?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

 

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Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena said that during the recent snow storms, he reached out to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza to provide resources for the state's capital city, but that Elorza did not take him up on his offer.  

"My crew, and the Johnston [Department of Public Works], have done a remarkable job," said Polisena, who has been Mayor of Johnston for eight years, after serving as a State Senator in the Rhode Island General Assembly for twelve years.  "It's costly, but the good thing is no one's gotten hurt, no one's been injured, and public safety gets to where it has to go."

Polisena said that following positive reviews of Johnston's clean up efforts, he heard from Elorza on the issue.

"I texted if he needed any help to let me know, since it's all about helping each other," said Polisena. "That was about two weeks ago.  He said that he was all set."

Polisena said that he would have made the same offer any other surrounding town.  

"It's not just Providence, I'd try and help out any town that asked," said Polisena.  "All the Mayors and town managers, we're all here do to the same job."

A spokesperson for Elorza did not respond to request for comment on Tuesday. 

Johnston, Providence, and Federal Government

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Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena

Polisena spoke to the snow plowing effort in Johnston, since Rhode Island was first hit with storm Juno beginning on January 26, 2015.

"We got on it early, and were able to get things done quickly, which is what enabled me to make the offer," said Polisena, who noted that Johnston has used fifteen of its own trucks, and eighteen contractors. 

"We've also just got 175 miles of roads, compared to Providence's.  They've got parking issues to deal with.  They've got a whole host of issues and headaches that we don't have to tackle here," said Polisena.  According to reports, Providence has approximately 370 miles of roads that need to be plowed.   

One issue that Polisena noted was that Johnston was waiting for Federal reimbursement from Blizzard Nemo in 2013, as the city was tabulating the costs of cleaning up this winter so far. 

"I'm saying prayers that we get reimbursement for the first one," said Polisena, referring to 2013. "I just had Senator Reed here, we talked about how Johnston still hasn't gotten federal aid for the 2013 storm, which is around $160,000."

Providence City Council President Luis Aponte said he hadn't heard that Johnston had approached Providence for help.  "I know the last issues between Providence and Johnston were over mutual aid for rescue runs," said Aponte.

Former Providence City Council President John Lombardi said he thought that Providence should take all the help it could get, however. 

"It's sad.  These streets could use some assistance.  We shouldn't be worried about softball leagues and chess tournaments," said Lombardi.  "The streets need to be widened, this is becoming a public health safety issue.  People are losing business, it's becoming a difficult situation. "

On February 12, GoLocal's Stephen Beale reported on Providence's snow plow budget and expenditures. 

Providence was counting on spending up to $1.6 million this season, including: $380,000 on salaries, $500,000 on rentals from vendors, and $500,000 on materials like salt and sand, according to city Internal Auditor Matt Clarkin.

As of February 10, the city was about two thirds of the way through its budget, according to Evan England, spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza. The city is also hoping to receive a federal reimbursement of $750,000 for what it has already spent, England noted.

"You've got to spend in these instances," said Lombardi. "Yes, the storms are of historical proportions. And whatever happened under the previous administration, [former Providence Mayor Angel] Taveras and Polisena had strained relationship, but I think Polisena was probably just reaching out to help.  And we could use the help.  I've got senior citizens who can't walk the streets on Federal Hill, who are prisoners in their own homes."

 

Related Slideshow: Providence City Council Grades Snow Removal Efforts

GoLocalProv reached out to the 15 members of the Providence City Council to see how they thought the snow plowing and removal went in their wards. Asked to give a letter grade, see what they had to say below:

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Luis Aponte

Council President, Ward 10

Grade: C

Comment: Aponte said that constituant complaints were mostly about the narrowing of the streets, and the narrow passageways for both pedestrians and vehicles.  At some point, he says, it's not about the plowing, but how to remove the snow altogether.

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Sabina Matos

Ward 15

Grade: None Given

Comment: She supports the job the DPW and the administration did, and said that it's important for everyone to work together to find solutions.

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Bryan Principe

Ward 13

Grade: B

Comment: Principe said that it was a tough job with so much snow, but there was room for improvement.

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Nicholas Narducci

Ward 4

Grade: B

Comment: Narducci said that plow operators did well, but the inspectors needed to do a better job.

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Wilbur Jennings

Ward 8

Grade: B+

Comment: Jennings said it was a tough storm, and they did well in his ward, all things considered.

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Michael Correia

Ward 6

Grade: C-

Comment: None

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Terrence Hassett

Ward 12

Grade: C

Comment: Hassett felt that the combination of insufficent equipment and some of the contractors' work led to less than ideal results. He doesn't believe the workers are to blame, but overall the city needs to be more efficient.

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Kevin Jackson

Ward 3

Grade: C

Comment: None

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Jo-Ann Ryan

Ward 5

Grade: None Given

Comment: "The issues with snow removal in my Ward were consistent with issues across the City. I feel grading the effort is not a productive exercise. I choose instead to commit to working with my fellow Council members and the Mayor to study the operation in an open and transparent forum to find solutions.  While the around-the-clock effort put forth by the city workers during the blizzard, along with the response to numerous calls for assistance was commendable, the end result is our citizens are generally not happy and we need to do better."

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Carmen Castillo

Ward 9

Grade: None Given

Comment: Castillo was reluctant to give a letter grade, but said there was room for improvement in her ward.

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Mary Kay Harris

Ward 11

Grade: None Given

Comment: No comment, wants to further assess the work done in her ward.

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Samuel Zurier

Ward 2

Grade: Incomplete

Comment: None

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David Salvatore

Ward 14

Grade: None Given

Comment: Salvatore said there was room for improvement, and that he looks forward to working with the new Elorza Administration on the issue.

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John Igliozzi

Ward 7

Grade: B

Comment: "It was a blizzard. I give them a B."

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Seth Yurdin

Ward 1

Councilman Yurdin did not respond to GoLocalProv's request for comment as of Thursday night.

 
 

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